Slow Food Orange County has an exciting opportunity to help Orange County schools. Slow Food USA is expanding its National School Garden Program, thanks to a grant by Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Orange County has been selected as one of ten focus areas for the program. The goals are to teach children how to grow and cook food, the importance of healthful eating, and the importance and variety of food from different cultures. You can read more about the program here.
SFOC already has experience working with school garden programs. Several projects have been completed in the last year alone. Tustin Memorial Academy received a Slow Food Orange County micro-grant, Ark of Taste seeds, and a hands-on cooking demonstration for students. Annaliese School and SFOC jointly hosted a community Ark of Taste event with local chefs to showcase the importance of protecting biodiversity in our food. SFOC also provided a grant and weekend volunteer workers to the Irvine Outdoor Education Center, where many Orange County students attend science camp and learn about growing food, soil and water management, and pollination. In addition, SFOC has worked with The Ecology Center’s Grow Your Own program to support the teachers responsible for school garden programs.
The National School Garden Program and the Chipotle grant give Slow Food Orange County the opportunity to continue and expand its support of school garden programs through a more formal program and through collaborations with other organizations such as The Ecology Center. We need your help to develop this program and make it work. We want to form a working group as soon as possible, so that we can be ready to help with spring garden projects. If you have experience with planning, developing and managing programs, edible gardening, or just want to help our schools, please get involved. Contact Linda Elbert at as soon as possible.
Historically, Slow Food Orange County has organized educational events for members and the community; hosted potlucks, mixers, and dinners; and been involved with school and community gardens. For the past year or so, Slow Food Orange County has been interested in finding relevant ways to bring leaders of the Orange County food community together to network and collaborate on projects of mutual interest. These leaders include chefs, farmers, educators, members of our sister organization Slow Money, and advocates for healthy food access.
Recently, Slow Food Orange County hosted a dinner at Bluebird Canyon Farms in Laguna Beach for about 25 food community leaders and their guests. This event was called the Stakeholders’ Dinner, as all our guests have an interest or concern in creating a “good food” community in Orange County consistent with Slow Food’s values of good, clean and fair food for all.
The event was held at Bluebird Canyon Farms, an urban farm in Laguna Beach that offers interns opportunities in various components of farming – crop management, soil and compost management, beekeeping, an aquaponic farm of the future, seed saving, greenhouse work with seedlings, and work with chickens. The event began with a farm tour by Scott Tenney, the farmer and owner. Local chefs Kerry Annick Cacciata from the Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market and Local Tastes Better, Paul Chamberlin from Boldo Bol, Nate Overstreet from Wheat and Sons Butcher, and Taylor Wright from Just Wright Desserts and Avocado Cafe Irvine worked together to provide a fabulous dinner using local, sustainably-produced ingredients. (Boldo Bol and Wheat and Sons are recipients of the Snail of Appreciation. The DTSA Farmers’ Market has been nominated and approved to receive a Snail of Appreciation. Avocado Cafe owner Taylor Wright and her sister Haywood are working with Slow Money contacts on local financing for their restaurant.) All who attended the dinner enjoyed the meal prepared by these talented chefs. We appreciate the time they offered to our Slow Food Chapter to make this event possible.
The evening sparked an important initial conversation among these diverse members of our Orange County food community. Guests discussed common goals and ways to support each other and collaborate in farmer-chef networks, school garden/Slow Food and chef connections, and research opportunities for university students. Guests expressed interest in taking turns hosting similar future gatherings in a potluck format. Slow Food OC is looking forward to continuing to facilitate interaction between the food community members who attended this event as well as reaching out to others. Information in feedback cards completed by guests indicated that all were pleased with the evening and interested in developing the new relationships initiated around the table, and Slow Food OC is interested in facilitating these networks in our good food community. Look for upcoming projects that will be an outgrowth of this network. We hope you will want to get involved!
Inviting California to Dinner: A look at old and new ways to use native plants in your garden and your meals
With all the talk of local food and saving water during the drought, why not turn to native plants to do both!? Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s Production manager, Antonio Sanchez leads this unique and informative talk on edible natives. This lecture covers many of the more common edible natives like Miner’s Lettuce (salad green) and Wild Grape (edible grapes), but also goes into some of the more obscure but equally as useful native plant foods like Saltbush (edible and tasty roasted seeds), Cleveland Sage and local onions (combined to make a California pesto!).
Samples of California pesto and other unique dishes will be available, along with recipe cards and a list of the easiest native edibles to grow in your garden.
Instructor: Antonio Sanchez, Production manager at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden